However, successfully incorporating responsive design requires brand owners to recognise how it directly improves usability and what this means to them in terms of increased conversions and return on investment. 

Smartphone technology and usage has come a long way in a very short period of time and some brand owners were quick to adopt separate mobile specific websites in the early days. However, this took an investment of time and valuable resources, sometimes watering down SEO equity across different domains or subdomains in the process.

With the parallel increase in tablet use, the need to create platforms that were not only SEO centralised but able to be viewed in full context on smaller screens and variable screen sizes became paramount.

Responsive design works by forcing a website to recognise the device it’s being loaded on and adjust dimensions like height, width and colour in order to provide an excellent user experience.

After all, making life easier from a navigation and usability point of view increases engagement and, as many case studies have shown, conversion rates. Competition for consumer attention grows by the hour, so this is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but rather an essential survival tactic for brand owners. 

As well as the brands cited in David Moth’s original blog, one brand that has adopted responsive design with gusto is Scandinavian furniture and design retailer, Skandium.

The company’s website’s reliance on using imagery to showcase its products is clearly an important element in incorporating responsive design. Snap decisions can be made based on the accessibility of these images, so being able to immediately view them in proper context on a mobile or tablet device is vital.

Another brand that has reaped the rewards of using responsive design is leading handbag and accessories retailer, Radley.

Its site contains a lot of flash based features, so in using responsive design, the brand has been able to ensure that these work effectively on multiple devices – modern twists on the way website information and imagery is displayed are all well and good but if they create a negative experience on a mobile or tablet, potential conversions can dwindle as a result.

We have been able to calculate the average benefits brand owners should expect as a result of adopting responsive design. (Note that these relate solely to the adoption of this approach):

  • Proving the direct link between increased usability driving engagement, brand owners can expect, on average, a 75% increase in the time spent browsing an individual site.*
  • When it comes to typical conversion rates, it is important to highlight that the combined efforts to establish and maintain a website drive, on average, a 1.5% to 2% conversion rate – when it’s realised that 0.5% of this figure can be attributed to incorporating responsive design, it’s easy to see what a difference it actually makes.*

Here’s a short guide to the stages of adopting responsive design, as well as some useful tools:

  1. Define your objectives! Many of these will be specific to the sector a brand falls within and the audience it wants to reach. However, an overarching goal that applies is to use responsive design as a way of ensuring that potential customers don’t fall through the net as a result of poor usability.
  2. Once your objectives have been set, use emulators such as Quirk Tools to test a current site by generating draft HTML versions of a main page or templates.
  3. Use Google Analytics to compartmentalise content by device and understand what pages need more prominence when navigating on mobile or tablet.

    Furthermore, in-page analytics will demonstrate the most popular click-throughs. As well as this, brand owners can adjust browser sizes by using this tool.

  4. Evaluating where most users spend time on a website will provide an insight into where to position content.
  5. Canvas evidence-based statistics: Once you have a list of possible pages, categories and products, a number of tools, for example Optimal Workshop, will communicate with independent focus groups to help define what content users deem most important.

    This means that brand owners can cross compare qualitative and quantitative research.

  6. Bite the bullet: It’s all well and good conducting research but the only real way to generate an initial improvement in conversion rates is to incorporate a responsively designed website that can be tweaked and updated as the need arises.

In using responsive design, businesses have an opportunity to go beyond the limits of developing individual online platforms in isolation and instead literally adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy within their e-commerce efforts.

As more brands reach a point where they need to redevelop or re-platform, we shall see an increase in the use of responsive design. Not only does this mean that the time saved can be ploughed directly into product development, but  over time some of the awful experiences consumers using small screens are still presented with will become a rarity (you know who you are!) rather than the norm.

By creating online content that is usable across all devices, thanks to a responsively designed core website, sales are likely to increase and be maintained as a result of claiming back time to focus on what really counts – satisfying customer needs. 

*natural growth seen on the sites over an evaluation period of two months.